TMC victory: Implications on Indian politics
After a tumultuous eight phase election process, Trinamool Congress (TMC) has become successful to retain power for consecutive third terms amidst growing popularity of saffron tide. However, Mamata Banarjee's Trinamool Congress has successfully halted the tide at West Bengal frontier. The victory of TMC in the state testifies to "Bengal Exceptionalism" and is also a victory for Indian secularism.
The Trinamool Congress (TMC) victory in the assembly election has far reaching repercussions for wider Indian politics. For one, it sends a resounding message to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that their dream of monolithic Hindu India is still far-fetched. While BJP was much enthusiastic and ardent to gain a victory in the election, as evidenced by Amit Shah's intermittent visit to Bengal and the latter's incendiary rhetoric and Prime Minister Modi's several visit to state to canvass votes. Interestingly, the display of Narendra Modi's posters led one commentator to sardonically quip whether Narendra Modi is vying for chief minister position. This partly explains the importance BJP and Narendra Modi attached to West Bengal election.
Above all, this election was important for BJP to prove their regional appeal. BJP's vision of "one state, one party" largely hinged on the victory in the Bengal. If BJP could win in Bengal, there had been possibility that other states would fall in order. This significance of Bengal election illuminates the importance that BJP attached to Bengal and their buoyant activities to seal the victory.
Bengal was long been known as bastion of ethnic politics rather than communal one. It was never been a fortress of all-India political parties. Even, in its heyday of all India politics, Indian National Congress (INC) couldn't gain much favor in Bengal election as the politics in Bengal is driven by an appeal to "Bengali-ness" which other nationwide party lacks.
However, upheavals in Bengal politics had been unmistakable in recent times. Especially, the event of BJP's significant performance in 2019 union elections led some observes to presage ominous trends of Bengal politics unfolding. The BJP's 40 per cent share of vote from Bengal is largely an anomaly in the Bengal's election history where all India political parties had hard time managing minuscule portion of the votes. The 2019 election results therefore didn't augur well for TMC in 2021. The defections of stalwart TMC leaders in favor of BJP exacerbated this grim predication and forbode an electoral mishap for TMC.
The detractors implicated Trinamool Congress for power abuse, extortion, misappropriation of welfare money and egregious Muslim appeasement. Especially, BJP seek to frame Trinamool Congress as anti-Hindu party. They had pointed to how Mamata Banarjee had benefitted Muslim clerics inordinately by providing them with benefits which their counterpart of Hindiu religion was deprived of. Beside, "Bangladesh Card" had been recurrently employed to accuse the alleged lenient approach of TMC with regards to Bangladeshi migrants.
BJP capitalized on anti-incumbency resentment emanating from prolonged period of TMC role which had generated local level corrupted politician and scandals of misappropriated welfare schemes facilitated BJP rhetoric. Besides, BJP promised that the coordination with center government will be far easier if BJP gains state. Above all, BJP appealed to Hindu sentiments of the 60 per cent majority Hindus of the state.
However, with the charismatic leadership of Mamta Banarjee and the promise of being rooted in Bengali soil and a proponent for peaceful communal relations, Mamata Banarjee's TMC has been indomitable as manifested by resounding victory of Trinamool Congress.
The BJP's promise of "Hindu Bengal" hadn't been materialized as West Bengal had long been a fortress of communal harmony, largely an aberration from all other Indian states. This communal harmony has been again bolstered by defeat of BJP in the assembly election.
The result of the election will largely reverberate across India with far-reaching consequences. Firstly, the victory of Trinamool Congress mean that Modi's vision of monolithic Hindu India isn't viable in view regional peculiarities. Secondly, it safeguards the federal structure of India in face of increasing intrusion of central government. It also will restrain Narendra Modi's unchecked centralization of the state. Thirdly, it will make Mamata Banarjee a spokesperson and central figure of anti-BJP movement in absence of vigorous congress presence. Fourthly, it puts an end to Narendra Modi's contentious CAA (Citizen Amendment Act) and other policies.
Lastly, this win of Mamata Banarjee has created the possibility of catapulting her to the heft of an all India leader. Especially, in the absence of a BJP's strong chief minister face, Mamata Banajee was vying with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This has momentous implication. This will consolidate the popularity of TMC in other states also with the image of Mamata Banarjee. The memory of implicitly defeating Narendra Modi will serve as accelerator of her all-India appeal.
Nevertheless, there is marked indications that the Bengal politics has irrevocably altered in the process of this election. While Bengal had long been the indisputable image of Indian secularism, the communal tendencies have made deep inroads in Bengal politics. This trend is unnerving for secular Bengal as well as India. However, it can now rightly articulate that saffron tide of communalism has been retarded. This victory of Mamata Banarjee can be termed as the victory of Indian secularism and federalism.
The writer is a student, Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka